Rick Pluta | Michigan Radio

Rick Pluta

Reporter / Producer - Michigan Public Radio Network

Rick Pluta has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.

Rick was one of the first Michigan political reporters to write about “pay-to-play” fundraising, and the controversies surrounding recognition of same-sex relationships. He broke the news that Gov. John Engler was planning a huge juvenile justice overhaul that included adult-time-for-adult-crime sentencing, and has continued to report since then on the effects of that policy decision.

He co-hosts the weekly segment “It’s Just Politics” on Michigan Radio with Zoe Clark.

Rick is fascinated by the game of politics, and the grand plans and human foibles that go into policy-making. You will never find him ice-fishing.

Follow him on Twitter at @rickpluta

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher / WDET

The Legislature adopted a resolution Tuesday extending Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency authority to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Lawmakers were called into the House and the Senate in small groups to check in before the resolution was adopted.

The resolution extends the governor’s emergency powers until April 30th. The governor had requested a longer extension of 70 days.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

The Legislature will meet Tuesday to vote on resolutions to extend Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers to address the COVID-19 outbreak. The House and the Senate have adopted special rules for in-person voting while adhering to health protections.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) says long-distance voting is not an option right now.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued another COVID-19-related executive order. The order says employees who think they have the disease have a right to stay home.

It also says businesses cannot fire or punish employees who stay home because they show symptoms or think they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. The order also covers workers who have to care for someone at home who’s sick with COVID-19.

Adobe Stock

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the doors to school buildings are locked for the rest of this school year. This is not a surprise. It just makes permanent an earlier order that temporarily closed schools. That was to buy time to come up with plans to address the rapid spread of the coronavirus. But the governor says it won’t be safe anytime soon for students and teachers to return to school. 


Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of disaster in Michigan. And she is asking the Legislature to extend her emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus outbreak that’s claimed more than 300 lives in Michigan.

Governor Whitmer sent a letter to House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). She asked the Republican leaders to call votes to extend emergency powers she’s exercised on her own until now.

prison cell for two people
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court says county jails should accelerate efforts to reduce the number of incarcerated people. And Chief Justice Bridget McCormack says the rapid spread of COVID-19 has made jails more dangerous for inmates, staff, and the sheriff’s deputies who guard them.

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher / WDET

On Monday, Bridge Magazine reported Governor Gretchen Whitmer was expected to sign an executive order that would effectively end the school year for Michigan students. However, Whitmer has told Michigan Radio that there won't be an order coming today and that coming up with a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of the students won't happen overnight. Whitmer did indicate that an order could be signed as soon as Wednesday, however.

beaumont hospital royal oak exterior
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order that makes it easier for health care workers to handle more medical duties. It’s part of the state’s response to the growing shortage of health care workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The order relaxes some rules to allow specialists, nurses, and physician assistants to take on more responsibilities to help address the growing shortage of health care workers.

a family sitting outside together at a park
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Updated March 27, 2020 at 11:59 a.m.

On a radio interview with WWJ-AM Friday morning, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said that it would be "very unlikely" that students would be returning to Michigan schools before the end of the 2019-2020 school year. 


Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Wednesday that moves many employment-related administrative hearings online in an effort to avert person-to-person contact that helps spread coronavirus.

Judge's gavel
Flickr user Joe Gratz / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday that corruption charges have been filed against Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith.

Three others – including a businessman and a former state legislator – also face charges linked to abusing public funds.

student using computer
Annie Spratt / UnSplash

Governor Gretchen Whitmer continues to issue emergency orders that close public places in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

The governor closed schools for three weeks with the expectation that they would re-open April 6. That order can be extended and that now appears likely.

child using a tablet at a table
StockSnap / Pixabay

The Michigan State Department of Education is not counting online classes as school days. That’s according to a memo sent by the state Friday to school administrators.

That’s in response to questions raised after Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered schools closed until at least April 5 as part of the state’s response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

closed sign in shop window
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered schools and many businesses to shut down in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. Thursday, the Michigan Strategic Fund board approved her request to provide $20 million in grants and loans to help small businesses that were affected by the order.

two national guard members move pallets of supplies
Sgt. James Bennett / Michigan National Guard

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has activated the Michigan National Guard to help deliver medical supplies to local health departments as they deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is part of the state’s response to the evolving health crisis that Wednesday claimed its first life in Michigan.

person holding test tubes with blue gloves on
Trust "Tru" Katsande / Unsplash

The state Department of Health and Human Services reports there are 11 new confirmed cases in Michigan. That brings the total number of known COVID-19 cases to 65.

The state is reporting new cases in Jackson, Leelanau and Otsego Counties.

slot machines in casino
Benoit Dare / Unsplash

All three Detroit casinos say they will close Monday for at least two weeks. Motor City Casino will close at noon, and MGM Detroit Casino and Greektown Casino are closing at 5 p.m.

That’s after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced late Sunday night that there are now 53 cases of people infected with the new coronavirus in Michigan.

Illustration of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Michigan’s chief medical executive testified Thursday on the state’s preparations to deal with COVID-19 cases.

Doctor Joneigh Khaldun appeared before the House Health Policy Committee. She says the state’s still inventorying the needs of health care facilities to meet the possible demand.

Michigan governor's office

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says gatherings of 100 or more people should be canceled or postponed. She says businesses should relax their sick leave policies.

These recommendations are part of her response to the first reported cases of COVID-19 in the state.

“We’re going to have to make some tough choices in the coming days and weeks,” she said in address from the state’s Emergency Response Center on the outskirts of Lansing.

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders speaking into separate microphones
Gage Skidmore / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Michigan helped push former Vice President Joe Biden closer to the Democratic nomination Tuesday with a decisive win over Senator Bernie Sanders. For Sanders, this was a stark and bitter change from four years ago, when Michigan resurrected his faltering campaign for president.

hands under pouring water
mrjn Photography / Unsplash

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday that the state will pick up the cost for Detroit residents to have water service re-connected for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Approximately 3,000 households in the city may be without water service for non-payment.

C.C. Little Science Building
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan

Attorney General Dana Nessel says she’s willing to investigate allegations of sex abuse leveled against a University of Michigan doctor. But she set some conditions that would have to be met first.

Former U of M students and athletes have stepped forward with claims of abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson, who died in 2008. They also say U of M failed to protect them from the abuse.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal court has struck down Michigan’s requirement that adults enrolled in the Healthy Michigan plan must be working or in school.

The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said the Medicaid expansion is to ensure health care for low-income people, not a jobs program.

User respres / Creative Commons

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a law Monday that will help low-income families avoid home foreclosures for unpaid taxes.

The law allows local governments to forgive penalties and interest for families that meet an income test.

picture of a purple folder that says U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Tomasz Zajda / Adobe Stock

Business groups across Michigan say they’re worried election year politics will get in the way of developing sensible immigration plans.

The Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Small Business Association of Michigan have all signed a statement on immigration.

rollingroscoe / Morguefile

The state of Michigan has reached an $80 million dollar settlement with former juvenile inmates who say they were sexually abused in the prison system.

An electric car charger with a car in the background
Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is making her mark on efforts to help Michigan’s auto industry make the transition into electric vehicles and new ways of getting from place to place.

Whitmer was in Detroit on Tuesday to sign the orders to create an “Office of Future Mobility and Electrification.”

absentee ballot
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’d sign a bill to allow faster processing of absentee ballots on primary election night.

Flickr user Auntowee

Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill last year to end a ban on allowing hunters to use bait to attract deer. Republicans who disagree with that veto just made their next move.

A new bill would allow the baiting ban to remain in place during deer hunting season. But it would reduce the penalty for violations to one dollar.

Gretchen Whitmer

A state Senate committee met on Thursday to grill Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s choice to chair the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.

But the Senate Advice and Consent Committee adjourned without making a recommendation to confirm or deny the appointment.